Police presence on School Grounds
By: Iris Altamirano
This past weekend on our weekly La Raza radio show, Graduando Latinos, our guest, Kenneth Eban of Students for Education Reform came to speak about the School to Prison pipeline. This “pipeline” is a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
According to the Minnesota House Research Department, a non-partisan office, “School Resource Officers (SROs) are sworn, licensed career peace officers with arrest powers who work full- or part-time in Minnesota public schools.”
In theory, school resource officers are supposed to foster exactly what many civil rights groups are campaigning for: better relations between law enforcement and citizens, particularly minorities and lower-income families, protect students and educators, and reducing the presence of drugs, alcohol, weapons, and violence in schools, including fights, threats, and bullying.
In practice, some say, they are worsening the situation, facilitating the school to prison pipeline rather than curbing it, all the while compromising students’ civil rights. Thanks to inconsistent training models and a lack of clear standards, critics contend school officers are introducing children to the criminal justice system unnecessarily by doling out harsh punishments for classroom misbehavior.
It is the case that Minnesota has no agency or organization responsible for the certification, monitoring, or evaluation of SROs or school-law enforcement partnerships.
It is also the case that there are no national or state standards for SRO training, and school-related training hours for SROs can vary greatly. While peace officers must complete a certain number of training hours to maintain their license, no specific training is required for SRO assignments. The DPS survey showed that SRO training programs in Minnesota cover topics such as school law, active shooters, threat assessment, emergency planning, working with school administrators, combatting drugs and gangs, and data practices. A federal community policing program recommends SRO training in teaching, mentoring and counseling, managing time, child development and adolescent psychology, and working effectively with diverse groups of students, among other topics.
In a recent meeting with, Jason Matlock, Director of M.P.S Emergency Management, Safety, and Security, shared that Minneapolis Public Schools allocates $1.3 million dollars for 16 School Resource Officers (SROs). These 16 SROs float around all high schools and sometimes into the middle schools.
In September 2014, the Department of Public Safety, conducted a Statewide Survey of School Resource Officers in Minnesota Schools. The survey included 222 Survey participants, making contact with 541 schools. In this report, on page 40, “far and away the most desired equipment was a gun locker in the building to store a long gun, rifle or assault weapon expressed by 50%. An additional 26 percent of SROs expressed that they would like to have a long gun or they want additional long guns for additional school settings where they serve.”
SROs comments on equipment needs:
“A gun locker and an additional shotgun and/or rifle to secure in the school during the school year since I would not be able to get to them in my vehicle during an emergency.”
“I have one rifle in a gun locker in the high school. I wish I had a similar set-up at the middle school.”
“An additional 20 percent of SROs named additional tactical equipment they would like on hand including ballistic blankets,shields or tactical vests (9%) followed by tasers (4%). A list of other tactical equipment comprised the remaining 7 percent including extra ammunition, breaching equipment, riot gear,“battle bags” or “go bags” and gas masks.” “
When I think about what Kenneth said on the radio about the levels of threats: External (bomb threat), Internal (weapon on school grounds), then cell phones out, fights, talking back (normal youth behavior), why would SROs “need” rifle lockers, assault weapons, tactical equipment, and “go bags” in a school of all places?
Who Can I contact about the Minneapolis Police Department’s School Resource Officer & Juvenile Outreach & Diversion Programs?
School Resource Officer Program Office: email@example.com
Juvenile Outreach Program Office: Giovanni.Veliz@minneapolismn.gov
Juvenile Diversion Program Office: Michael.Chiappetta@minneapolismn.gov
M.P.S. Office of Emergency Management: firstname.lastname@example.org
M.P.S. Superintendent: Ed.Graff@mpls.k12.mn.us